By Lisa Ponichter
It’s a new year. Many of us make resolutions which include wellness and fitness goals. However, these can go by the wayside due to scheduling. But how many give up a new health practice because it doesn’t feel good?
It’s hard to feel delicious in a yoga class if your hips are protesting a particular movement. Or how about that ache in your shoulder after having enrolled in golf lessons. Who needs that?
What if you could start new moves that helped you get back to what you love doing in an easier and pleasurable way? I discovered that moving can feel as enjoyable as eating the finest and tastiest food. Imagine moving in a way that nourished your body as opposed to hurting it. My life was transformed by a unique movement approach. Not only was I able to sit through classes without pain, but I was able to return to dancing! I felt my body as never before and took pleasure in every movement.
Moving to A New Beat
This brilliant method was invented by Moshe Feldenkrais, who said, “When we know what we are doing, we can do what we want.” Instead of pushing into pain in that yoga pose, you’d modify your movement until you became more flexible and learned how to breathe where it was easier. Instead of forcing a golf swing, you’d learn to move smoothly and gently through the parts of your body which participate in this particular movement.
These movement awareness explorations can be done hands-on or through verbally guided classes. The process makes the experience of our movements more pleasurable. This is done simply by placing awareness on what we are feeling as we experience the patterns.
How can playing with movements make them delicious or feel great? The answer is in the manner in which we explore those movements. What helps to create the shifts to greater pleasure is to notice what you are doing and where you are moving from in your breath, without tensing muscles first, moving at a slower pace and gradually building speed.
Breathing is an important part of movement, as everything is better supported by it. Another golden nugget is not pushing into pain. When we push into pain, the brain shifts into defense mode and muscles automatically tighten in protection. This makes it more difficult for pleasurable and efficient movement to occur. With these things in mind, try one or both of the Awareness Through Movement explorations below.
“It’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking versus think yourself into a new way of acting” — Jerry Sternin
Customize Your Movements
Depending on what particular quality you’d like to embody this new year, here are some suggestions:
Need more confidence? Try exercises which open up the breastbone and rib cage. It’s hard to look confident let alone feel confident if you are slouched. Try this: Lie on your back and bend your knees. Notice how the back is arched without trying to change it. Begin to tilt your tailbone up towards the ceiling and then come back to where you started or what is called a neutral position.
Notice how it flattens the back. Do this several times while breathing. Rest. Then move your tailbone in the opposite direction by pressing it down towards the floor between your knees. Feel how the back arches. Do this several times, breathing. Rest. Now connect the two directions by going back and forth. Feel the rise and fall of your back. Notice if you are holding your neck still. If so, let it go. Allow the movements to travel all the way up to your head so when your tailbone moves up your chin also lifts, and when your tailbone goes down your chin follows. Play with these movements at different speeds. This does not mean tensing up. Keep it slow and in a small range if you notice pain or tension. Remember try to do what is easy and this will naturally grow into more feel-good moves provided there is no strain.
This is training the body to use its bones and this is where real strength originates. Now try those same exercises while sitting. Feel how your chest rises as you kick your tailbone out behind you as breathe and move in a comfortable range. Can you feel yourself getting shorter when you let your tailbone go forward? Going back and forth, notice the rise and fall of your chest. You will find your own neutral while playing with this. Most people slouch or collapse through the breastbone. Sensing the power from the pelvis and spine will lift your upper body and give you that boost of confidence you need to ask out that person you’ve had your eye on!
Want to add some sexiness to your swagger? Try some side-lying movement explorations which mimic what we do while we are walking. Lying on your side helps gain smoothness and reminds the whole spine to participate. Try this: Lie comfortably on your side with both knees bent up towards your chest and both arms out in front of you. One lying on top of the other. If there is pain or strain, try a pillow between your arms or knees or both. Begin to move your shoulder and pelvis forward and backward simultaneously rolling like a log. Do this several times and rest. Then move the shoulder and pelvis in the opposite direction… the shoulder moves forward as the pelvis goes backward and then the shoulder moves backwards as the pelvis moves forward.
Always remember to breathe as you go and making movements smaller should you experience pain or discomfort. You can try changing the positioning of your arm and knees in the direction of either your head or feet. Basically, they can be at any angle. Notice how changing their position changes what parts of your back you feel the movements in. Over time practice making these movements easier and gentle. Do not force but instead allow. Breathe as you move and explore in an easy range. Ask yourself how you could move with more pleasure? Now get up and walk. Notice what feels different. You can do this lying on the other side, too. Practice it 10 minutes a day. You’re bound to have someone notice your smooth moves and you’ll feel much more alive and articulated. And possibly, even sexier when you walk!
“We play with movement patterns until the pattern of pain moves away” — Lisa Ponichter
It’s Not Too Late
Many people come to me in pain. As we find smaller and smaller movements which don’t increase pain nor activate the brain’s defense mechanism, we can begin to step out of the pain cycle and into something new. The next time you reach for something, notice if you are using as much of your whole self in the movement. Are you breathing? Play with the idea of how you can make your moves more delicious for yourself.
There is always hope for improved movement and feeling better than when you started. Just as a baby begins with very little movement control and coordination, we too can re-learn helpful movements, smoother coordination, and come back to the juicy, feel-good movements of being supple, flexible, and balanced. Whether you’re looking for grace, precision, power, or less pain… it’s attainable to you in the new year and I encourage you to follow me or other Feldenkrais practitioners on YouTube. Explore delicious movements in live classes, or enjoy hands on sessions for MORE of what YOU want in this new year!
“Making the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant” — Moshe Feldenkrais